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Race for the vaccination passport that should offer more freedom

It started with the six neighboring countries that make up the East African Community. Of the six, only two – Kenya and Tanzania – have direct access to the sea. The other four are completely landlocked and largely dependent on international road transport for the supply and removal of goods. But last year, the trucks suddenly got stuck in long traffic jams because the neighboring countries had closed their borders to keep corona out.

To get freight traffic rolling again, drivers at the border had to be able to prove that they had a recent negative test result and the border guard had to be able to trust the test evidence. The solution became the CommonPass, a digital testing and vaccination passport developed by The Commons Project, a Swiss non-profit organization.

This corona pass is tested by volunteers not only in Africa, but also on flight connections between London, Newark and Hong Kong. Airlines Lufthansa, Virgin, United and Cathay Pacific are participating in the project, as are hundreds of medical facilities in the US and Aruba.

The CommonPass is just one of many vaccination certificates now being developed at a feverish pace to unlock societies around the world. Not only NGOs, but also companies, international organizations and governments are developing vaccination certificates to ease the transition to a post-lockdown society. The European Commission will present its plan for a European vaccination certificate on March 17.

Ethical questions

This raises ethical questions that must be answered quickly.

The central question is: what safeguards must be built in before a distinction can be made between people on medical grounds? Because that distinction will be made seems inevitable.

The CommonPass works simply. Recent test and vaccination information is uploaded via an app. At the gate or border, the traveler shows the CommonPass with a QR code in addition to the ticket and passport. The app is free, the data is not centrally stored, according to the organization.

In addition to the CommonPass, the Linux Foundation started the Covid-19 Credential Initiative at the beginning of this year. A number of tech and healthcare companies are working together on a digital wallet in which a user can store a copy of test and vaccination documents.

In addition, the aviation organization IATA, with which 290 airlines are affiliated, is working on the TravelPass. Google, Apple, IBM and Microsoft are also developing certificates, as are companies that already market identity cards or systems for the standardized storage of medical data. In addition to the vaccine race, a race has now also emerged in the development of commercial vaccination certificates. It is not yet clear which system or systems will win the race.

Last year, the World Health Organization already tested an e-vaccination certificate, a digital version of the yellow vaccination booklet, together with the digitally progressive Estonia. The WHO is now working with a large group of experts on a Smart Vaccination Cerftificate.

Digital Green Pass

Governments in Europe have long hesitated about the usefulness and necessity of a vaccine passport. In the EU, the topic was already on the table in May last year, but only after pressure from the Greek prime minister – who sees a vaccine passport as a rescue for the coming tourism season – did the discussion start in December.

This week, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that she will be making a proposal for a Digital Green Pass will do. The pass may contain information about vaccination, test results and disease progression.

The question of what the pass should be used for is still unanswered. Earlier, von der Leyen said it should be for “medical purposes” only. In Monday’s announcement, she stated that the Green Pass “should facilitate the lives of Europeans”. They must be able to ‘move safely within and outside the EU’.

Does the EU want a travel document or should Europeans also have access to restaurants, theaters or gyms? The latter is what Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has in mind. He advocated a green card in Israeli style. Since last week, the already vaccinated half of the population has been allowed to go back to the swimming pool or the prayer house with the help of an app.

Muslims who want to make the traditional pilgrimage to Mecca, the hajj, this year, must also be able to prove that they have been vaccinated. If not, they will be refused, the Saudi health minister has determined, Al Jazeera reports.

Whatever it looks like, a vaccination passport raises a number of tricky issues, regardless of whether the necessary systems can be ready in time for the peak holiday season. For example, it is still unknown whether vaccination is sufficient to prevent the virus from spreading. If vaccinated travelers can still spread the virus, what freedoms can be attached to a pass?

Also read: Will you be able to do more with a shot later?

In addition: does it still matter with which vaccine someone was vaccinated? Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, for example, ignore the principle that EU member states only use vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency. They also vaccinate with the Russian Sputnik-V and, in the case of Hungary, with the Chinese Sinopharm.

The British Royal Society, the British academy of science, published a study last month on the many issues to be addressed. She warned against the possible precedent of vaccination certificates. For example, do they promote health surveillance by the state? In China, personal data obtained through a Covid app is shared with the police.

Privacy

The Society also poses questions about privacy: can an employer ask for proof of vaccination? And is it guaranteed that governments will not link vaccination data to other personal data, such as age or ethnicity?

Politicians wonder whether it is fair to deny people who have not been vaccinated through no fault of their own (youth) rights that are granted to people who have been vaccinated. This is regardless of whether vaccination passports do not affect the fundamental rights of people who do not want to be vaccinated.

And then there is the question of what choice Europe is making with regard to global vaccine inequality. The European Union, along with other Western governments, was at the forefront of purchasing vaccines, with the result that poorer countries have to wait. If vaccination becomes a requirement for travel to Europe, residents of those countries will be again disadvantaged.



Race for the vaccination passport that should offer more freedom
Source link Race for the vaccination passport that should offer more freedom

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